Greece league suspended after pitch gun storm
GREECE indefinitely suspended its league yesterday, a day after the gun-toting owner of PAOK Thessaloniki marched onto the field following a disputed goal at the end of a match.
Giorgos Vasileiadis, the cabinet member in charge of sports, met with Greece’s prime minister and said league play was suspended, adding it would not restart “if there is not a new, clear framework agreed to by all so we can move forward with conditions and regulations”.
PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis walked onto the field twice accompanied by bodyguards, and appeared to be carrying a pistol in a holster around his waist. He made no move to use the weapon at any time.
Fernando Varela had just scored in the 90th minute of Sunday’s match between PAOK and AEK Athens, putting the hosts ahead 1-0 in the northern city of Thessaloniki. The referee signaled a goal but then seemed to disallow it for offside. The match was eventually abandoned.
Greece has faced an unusually volatile league championship this season, with traditionally dominant Olympiakos — which has only failed to win the title twice in the past 21 years — currently in third place, behind leader AEK and PAOK.
Police said yesterday they were investigating Savvidis, who holds a gun license, for illegal entry onto the field and for possession of an object that could cause harm in a sporting venue.
Tatyana Gordina, the deputy CEO in charge of corporate communications at Savvidis’ Russia-based Agrocom Group, stressed Savvidis had not made any threatening gestures.
“There were no threats made by Ivan Savvidis, especially not involving the use of a weapon, during yesterday’s match,” she said. “There was an emotional walk out onto the field, probably a breach of sporting regulations, and nothing more. Most of the headlines in the Greek press exaggerate the facts.”
FIFA criticized Savvidis’ move. “First of all, FIFA fully condemns such behavior,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement. “Given that this incident occurred in the context of a national competition, any disciplinary measure to be imposed falls under the jurisdiction of the deciding bodies of the Greek FA.”
Savvidis was born in Georgia of Greek heritage and is an ex-Russian member of parliament. He has holdings in assets ranging from Thessaloniki port to tobacco and media companies.